Investing in Transportation Can Spur the Economy and Create Jobs, ARTBA Economist Tells Congress

September 28, 2010

The transportation construction industry’s chief economist outlined a program of quick-start projects that, with new federal investment, could immediately help spur job creation and economic recovery across the nation.

In testimony before the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Oct. 29, 2008, Dr. William Buechner, vice president of economics and research for the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), noted that "U.S. construction workers have, so far, borne the brunt of the current economic crisis."

Noting that the unemployment rate in the construction industry during September was 9.9 percent — almost four percentage points higher than that for the economy as a whole — Buechner said ARTBA’s quarterly survey of transportation construction contractors found 60 percent reported they had fewer employees in the third quarter of this year than during the same quarter in 2007."

"Our industry has the capacity to take on additional work immediately. Our latest market conditions survey found only three percent of respondents operating a full capacity during the third quarter. Thirty six percent report they are now operating at 75 percent of capacity or less. This is up from 27 percent in the second quarter and the highest in the history of our survey," Buechner added.

Dr. Buechner underscored the industry’s ability to immediately address transportation needs and create jobs. "With a properly structured program…thousands of transportation construction projects across the nation are ready to go. This includes work like milling, resurfacing and overlays, safety striping, guardrail and sound wall installations, signage repair and replacement, and investments in new lighting and safety appurtenances," he said. "Bridge investments could also play a large role in an economic recovery and jobs program. Bridge deck repairs, sealing, resurfacing and preservation work can be put into motion quickly — so could accelerated bridge inspection, scraping and painting programs."

"Economic recovery legislation can create needed jobs in 2009. But without increasing the revenue stream to the Highway Trust Fund after FY 2009, we are facing a disastrous 45 percent year-on-year cut in federal highway program funding in FY 2010 that would threaten as many as 700,000 American jobs. While it is important to enact economic recovery and job creation legislation right now, I cannot stress strongly enough how it is also critically important that the Congress enact long-term legislation reauthorizing the federal surface transportation and aviation programs as soon as possible next year," the ARTBA economist concluded.

Buechner is a Harvard-trained economist who served for nearly two decades as a senior advisor to the Congressional Joint Economic Committee. Also on the panel was Doug Black, chief executive officer of ARTBA-member Oldcastle Materials, Inc., a leading transportation construction materials and services firm.